Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Hard To Kill [Review: Starship Troopers 3 Marauder]

The Starship Troopers films tend to divide viewers: are they simply fascistic and pro-war, or is it all a clever work of satire? ST3 won't end this debate, which actually started with Robert Heinlein's novel long before the films were conceived. However there are definitely some satirical elements to this film as in ST1: particularly the over-the-top propaganda films and commercials. Would you like to know more? Sometimes it's a bit too obvious - referring to the war as the Araq-nid conflict for instance is not very subtle.

It struck me, watching this straight to DVD threequel, that the production values here are only a few notches above the Asylum films or similar low-budget dramas. The sets are a little better, the effects are a little better although still hit and miss - the bugs are as good as ever but the CGI Marauders that appear later in the film just look like toons.

As far as the acting goes, Casper Van Dien reprises his role as Johnny Rico and, having very little to do, does it quite well. Instead of Denise Richards as Carmen Ibanez, Jolene Blalock plays Lola "hard to kill" Beck - and is a million times more convincing. Amanda Donohoe as Admiral Phid is also excellent.

The series does have something to say about war. In this conflict there is (almost) no doubt about the motives of the arachnid enemy - they're a swarm of bloodthirsty creatures out to kill us all. So the films can take a look at cynical war politics and politicians, propaganda, intolerance, paranoia, stupidity and the resultant waste of life which all take place even when there's no doubt that the war itself is justified.

While I think the film succeeds in skating along the edge of war satire, unfortunately there is a complete lack of religious satire - instead the religious message of this film is actually quite worrying. Air hostess Holly (Marnette Patterson) and Sky Marshal Anoke (Stephen Hogan) both seem to be turning to Christianity when they are stranded on a bug planet. It turns out that the bugs also worship God - but it's OK, they're still evil, because "it's the wrong God."

Having completely forgotten that earlier in the film Holly's religious beliefs made her dangerously gullible and led to the death of half the squad, the film suddenly becomes obsessed with the Lord's Prayer and this leads into an ending where violent military intervention is presented as a miracle. Together with the mass hanging of dissidents that the Citizen Federation seems so keen on, it reminded me a little of the historic witchcraft trials.

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